Early last week, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunburg delivered a passionate speech at the annual United Nations Climate Action Summit, where she pleaded with officials to address the climate crisis head-on.
Perhaps the most powerful part of her speech was a direct attack on the older generation: “You have stolen my dreams, my childhood, with your empty words… we are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about are your fairy tales of money and eternal economic growth.” The rest of her speech was just as harsh, demanding an immediate call to action. Her refusal to sugarcoat her remarks among the world’s most powerful leaders struck a chord with much of the audience (as well as the internet) and many people had thoughts to share about Thunberg.
While the response from the public and the internet has generally been positive, there has also been a substantial amount of misogynistic and ableist attacks thrown at Thunberg from conservative detractors, including President Trump himself. Everything from her age, appearance, and demeanor were under attack, simply because she didn’t fit the conventional mold of how a “respectable” young woman should act. Thunberg gave no smiles or jokes because frankly, the climate crisis is no laughing matter. Her single focus was to bring awareness to how little time we have left to save our planet, but it seemed that many people chose to focus on everything but that.
Trump in particular chimed in with a sarcastic tweet: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” In this context, “happy” is seen as being meek and complacent, both traits often used to undermine women in power. Her entire narrative is dismissed simply because she doesn’t tell him what he wants to hear.
As for the future of climate action, Thunberg was critical of the plans presented at the summit, which she argued were not ambitious enough to keep up with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is not clear just yet what implications her speech and the summit in general will hold, but one thing’s for sure: Greta Thunberg is here to stay, whether you like it or not.
This post reflects the opinions of the author and is not necessarily representative of those of Penn Democrats.